Was Yechezkel 4:4 method of Israel's atonement simply : immobility?

Sanhedrin 39a:13

The Holy One, Blessed be He, afflicts Ezekiel in order to cleanse the sins of the Jewish people. God instructed him to lie down and suffer the same number of days as the number of years that the Jewish people did not observe the halakhot of the Sabbatical Year.

Rashi on Ezekiel 4:4

"on your left side" שְׁכַב עַל־צִדְּךָ הַשְּׂמָאלִי : to bear the pain and torture [over] the number of days corresponding to the number of years that My spirit oppressed Me, so to speak, because they provoked Me, and you will atone for their iniquity since the retribution that I say I will bring upon them is painful to you.

Yechezkel 4:4

And you shall lie on your left side, and you shall place the iniquity of the house of Israel through it; the number of the days that you shall lie on it, you will bear their iniquity. (וְאַתָּה שְׁכַב עַל־צִדְּךָ הַשְּׂמָאלִי וְשַׂמְתָּ אֶת־עֲו‍ֹן בֵּית־יִשְׂרָאֵל עָלָיו מִסְפַּר הַיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁכַּב עָלָיו תִּשָּׂא אֶת־עֲו‍ֹנָם)

Based on Sanhedrin 39a:13 & Rashi commentary on Ezekiel 4:4, how does immobility (motionlessness) atone/cleanse national sins?

  • 1
    Don't those sources all explain themselves, following mida k'neged mida?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 8, 2022 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


It is not so much about motionlessness. It rather tells us that it was an uncomfortable position to be in for a longer period. Radak says that most of the time, a person will lie on his left side (see Chidushei Mayim Chayim for an explanation on why). However, not for such a long period as Yechezkel was instructed to do.

In Sefer Zikaron, Rav Yosef Stadthagen (p. 102) brings this Rashi in combination with Yechezkel 4:4. Rav Stadthagen explains that by lying on one side for a great amount of time, will cause pain to that person. The pain experienced by Yechezkel will then atone for the sins of the Jewish People and cleanse them.

See also the Malbim on that posuk.

The Radak explains:

[...] Meaning you will bear their iniquity, you will suffer their iniquity because lying on one side for a long time without turning to the other side is very difficult

Rashi clearly says in Yechezkel 4:4 that "lying on left side" causes pain, and this will atone for it.

  • Also, laying on any side for such extended periods is a good way to get pressure ulcers (a.k.a. bed sores).
    – Tamir Evan
    Dec 9, 2022 at 10:08
  • 1
    @Shmuel - Thanks for sharing Malbim & Radak commentary. Dec 11, 2022 at 13:26
  • Happy to help!.
    – Shmuel
    Dec 11, 2022 at 13:39

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